“This is one race that made me very nervous, there were so many people depending on me to finish.” -Hector Picard
There is intense pressure for anyone who is preparing for the Ironman World Championship in Kona. In addition to the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, there is; Kona’s extreme heat, changing elevation, rough seas, and strong winds. This adds excruciating demands above any other full Ironman race. Statistically, 7% of all competitors fail even after training all year and having raced and qualified to compete in the championship. Most IM athletes would agree Kona is in an entirely different league than the others.
The IM World Championship is even more challenging for local athlete and motivational speaker, Hector Picard, otherwise known as “No Hands Ironman.” At Fifty-years old Hector competed in the October race with the goal of doing something no one has done before. Picard lost both of his arms in a job related electrical accident at 26 years old. One of his recent goals has been to be the first double amputee to complete IM Kona. Hector has competed in well over 20 triathlons this year alone. But Kona is an unforgiving race, it’s a competition he was forced to drop out of in 2015 when the heat got the better of him.
If this isn’t enough pressure, for anyone; Hector is racing for a unique purpose which motivates him and helps others. Back at home in Florida some of the most medically fragile children in the nation are counting on him. He’s placed on himself the additional burden of raising $50,000 for the Broward County Children’ s Center (bcckids.org) through his 2016 races. His plan to donate this World Championship medal to the children’s center as inspiration for the kids, required first earning the medal. All of Hector’s 2016 race medals are dedicated to these children. He’s always committed to succeeding, then as he promised, presenting a medal them. Failure at Kona would mean he could not fulfill a promise to award his accomplishment to hang in the hall of the children’s center, and a chance to inspire children for all the future.
As inspiration, during the race he wore a sleeve with the name of each child. Picard knows that if these children have no choice but to carry-on with their daily challenges, then he can also find the strength to dig down and finish 25 triathlons in 2016, including the Kona World Championship. He called upon that name list on more than one occasion during the race. He’d look down at the names, remember why he was there and decide he couldn’t slow down, and wouldn’t quit.
“I was able to finish, because I made it about the kids. When I felt weakest I’d look at the names and tell myself I couldn’t disappoint them” -Hector Picard
Runners and cyclists everywhere could probably learn a thing or two about motivation from Hector Picard. Last year Kona got the best of him about 80 miles into the bike ride. There’s a less obvious, but potentially very hazardous condition that adds to the list of obstacles Hector has to overcome to finish any race. Much of his torso is covered in scar tissue. Scars from burns he had suffered during his accident. This prevents a large percentage of his body from producing sweat. Sweat needed to naturally cool himself. In 2015, it was the 110 degree heat that took him out of the race. In 2016 as he cycled past the 80 mile point on a modified bike of his own design, the place where he was pulled out last year, he used it mentally as a new starting point.
Picard knows he’s inspirational to BCC kids, but the children are also motivation to him. How do you motivate yourself during a run? Comment below and share with other readers. For more information about Hector Picard and his fundraising use hashtag #RacingForTrueChampions
-Paul S. Hoffman